Monday, June 27, 2011

BEST EVER Coffee Cake: Blueberry, Lemon, Almond Crumb Heaven

This coffee cake is the BEST coffee cake I have ever made! I first made it years ago when my in-laws came to visit and it was the first time my mother in law asked for one of MY recipes! I always ask for hers! Anyway, it's not 'my' recipe--it's from a Cooking Light magazine from June 2005. And I made it again this weekend while my friend from college and her family came to visit. And Lila asked for the recipe too. We were talking about how there are people out there that don't give credit or share recipes and since neither of us are those types of people, the recipe is below for your enjoyment!

The texture of this moist coffee cake is crumbly and delicate. And the flavors of the blueberries, lemon, and almond are absolutely perfect together. It's the perfect side to a cup of coffee (or as dessert with a scoop of vanilla bean ice-cream). And one of my favorite recipes ever! A great weekend brunch item or a delightful treat to have if you're lucky enough to have afternoon tea!

Adapted from Cooking Light

For cake:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 tsp. baking powder

  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda

  • 1/2 tsp. salt

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1/3 cup almond paste

  • 2 Tbsp. chilled butter, cut into small pieces

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice

  • 3/4 cup fat-free milk

  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries

  • 2 tsp. grated lemon rind (I never measure-just use rind of a whole lemon)

  • Topping:
  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 3 tablespoons sliced almonds, chopped

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted (light butter is fine)

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • Preheat oven to 350°.

    To prepare cake, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.

    Place 1/2 cup sugar, almond paste, and 2 tablespoons butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add egg and lemon juice, beating well. Add flour mixture and fat-free milk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Fold in blueberries and rind. Spoon batter into a 9-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray (I use an 8X8 inch pan and it always works out perfectly).

    To prepare topping, combine 1/4 cup sugar and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, tossing with a fork until moist. Sprinkle topping evenly over batter.

    Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack.
    Note: Almond paste is found in the baking section of the grocery store. (Don't substitute marzipan, which is sweeter and has a smoother texture.) If it is hard, soften it by microwaving at HIGH 10 to 15 seconds.

    Makes approximately 12 pieces.

    Saturday, June 25, 2011

    Strawberry Yogurt Whole Grain Muffins

    Well, you knew it was coming, didn't you? Muffins + Strawberries + Yogurt + Whole Grain Flour= Awesome breakfast or snack. My friend, Nancy, first posted about this recipe a while back (here's the post). I've worked with it a bit & must say it's my second favorite muffin recipe. Here's my first. And the perfect recipe to have on hand when your strawberries are about to go bad--but not quite there, yet not worthy to be put out to be eaten either. The muffins are even better with freshly picked strawberries!

    I first made these last year and then again a couple months ago when we went strawberry picking. But I'm getting ready to make them again and figured I'd share the recipe for anyone else that finds themselves with a bumper crop of strawberries--they are still cheap at the grocery store in June! Here are a few pictures from our picking in April:

    I've included two of my trials below as notes after the recipe--you may want to read through them before trying out the recipe to see what might sound good in your own efforts. I don't know that I prefer one over the other. The original is wonderful, but I would encourage you to play around with the recipe if you wish too--it's a forgiving one. Thanks again for the inspiration, Nancy! These are really melt-in-your-mouth good!

    Adapted from Stonyfield Farm

    "these muffins are a great brunch item. for extra sweetness, dust with cinnamon sugar while still hot."
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1/2 cup sugar (I've only made them with raw sugar so far b/c I adore raw sugar)
    • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 cup lowfat plain yogurt
    • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature (used light butter before with success)
    • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
    • 1 cup chopped strawberries, fresh or frozen (I've only used fresh)

    Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 12 muffin tin or line it with paper baking cups. In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar and baking soda. (I skipped the sifting and it was fine) In another bowl, stir together eggs, yogurt, melted butter and vanilla until blended. Toss the strawberries with the flour mixture.

    Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir until the flour is just moistened. The batter will be lumpy. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups. (Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, if desired) Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.

    Yields 12 muffins.


    1) I used regular strawberry yogurt and must say this made a big difference in the 'pop' of the strawberry flavor 2) Used 3 egg whites in place of 2 regular eggs 3) Substituted whole wheat pastry flour instead of whole wheat flour (I tend to prefer it for baking) 4) Added about 1/4 cup of wheat germ + ~2 Tbsp. of ground flax seeds 5) Used brown sugar instead of regular sugar 6) When my dough seemed too dry, I added a splash of skim milk. Came out spectacular and HEALTHY!

    1) Used Smart Balance buttery spread (stick form) instead of butter 2) Used 1/3 (raw) sugar in muffin batter and then mixed 1/4 cup of (raw) sugar with a couple teaspoons of ground cinnamon cinnamon and sprinkled this cinnamon-sugar mixture on top of the muffins before baking 3) Had to add ~1/2 cup of buttermilk b/c dough was dry 4) Used fat-free strawberry Greek yogurt. Still a smashing success!!!!

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    Mediterrean Lentil Salad

    Now that the heat is here, I like whole grain summer salads for quick meals. I found this recipe on, but changed it up a bit to suit my needs--for instance, less fat, the addition of a tomato, and since I didn't have fresh parsley, I added dried parsley to the lentils cooking and then used fresh mint and basil to mix in at the end. I also liked the addition of a little bit of cheese--just a bit takes it over the top. I'm sure you can substitute the feta for Parmesan or another cheese and it will be amazing. Or, skip the cheese for a vegan meal.

    This earthy salad is very delicious and filling. It would make a wonderful meal to take to work or as an addition to a picnic. The salad travels well, and if you don't use the cheese, you can leave it out for several hours without fear that it will spoil or 'go bad.' I really enjoyed it the texture of the lentils, the tartness of the lemon, and the intense flavor of the fresh herbs. It's also a great way to squeeze in some vegetables!

    Adapted from

    Serves 8
    • 1 cup dry brown lentils
    • 1 cup diced carrots (~2.5 carrots)
    • 1 cup red onion, diced (about 1 red onion)
    • 1 tomato, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
    • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice (I used the zest too)
    • 1/2 cup diced celery (about 1.5 stalks)
    • *1/4 cup chopped parsley (or 1/2 tsp. dried that you can add to the lentils during cooking-see note below)
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
    • 1/4 cup olive oil (I used less)
    • 1/4-1/3 cup reduced fat feta, crumbled or grated (optional)

    In a saucepan combine lentils, carrots, onion, tomato, garlic, bay leaf, and thyme. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch (this was about 3-4 cups for me).

    Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes or until lentils are tender but not mushy. (I needed to boil my lentils for about 8-10 minutes longer to get the right tenderness in the lentils)              

    Drain lentils and vegetables and remove bay leaf. In a medium sized bowl, add olive oil, lemon juice, celery, parsley (or any other fresh herbs of your choice-see note below), salt and pepper to the lentils. Then add the feta, if using. Toss all the ingredients together and serve at room temperature.               

    *One handful of chopped herbs--a combination of mint, basil, and parsley is particularly delicious

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Mixed Berry Buttermilk Gelato

    Oh I appreciate you. You're a good person. A person who introduces me to recipes that make me happy and a little of a soul mate. I saw this on your blog and I could not resist. But when I measured out my strawberries, I sadly realized there weren't enough, so in went the raspberries and blackberries that were in the fridge. Check out Nancy's gorgeous picture and original post right here.

    This is a WONDERFULLY easy and refreshing recipe. MUST, MUST try! You can't taste the buttermilk at all! My husband seemed skeptical at first, but then he said it was 'very good!' It's more like a 'sorbet' than gelato to me, but maybe if I had used a full-fat buttermilk, it may have tasted more like the Italian gelatos I'm familiar with.... Either way, this one is for the books.

    One thing to note...the full amount of this recipe did NOT fit my ice-cream maker. I didn't remember reading this on Nancy's blog until I poured it in and then desperately grabbed a straw to suck up the overidge. Boy, am I glad I'm not on a reality tv show because that was, Not. Pretty. I wonder if scaling all ingredients back by 25% would make it fit...? (No, I haven't figured out those proportions yet because I'm too busy eating.) But if you have this kind of ice-cream maker (like mine), then this recipe may overflow your machine as well.

    Try serving it in a waffle cone and alternate with vanilla ice-cream. The two flavors are amazing together!


    Yield: 8 cups (serving size: 1/2 cup)
    • 2 cups water
    • 2 cups sugar (next time I may use 1 3/4 cups)
    • 2 cups buttermilk (I used low fat, but I think full-fat may be better in this recipe)
    • A tiny pinch of salt (optional--but think recipe needed it)
    • 5 cups mixed berries of your choice or single berries of your choice (I did strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries--but all strawberry is original version)*

    Combine sugar and water in a large saucepan (and salt, if using); bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour into a large bowl; cool completely.

    Place strawberries in a blender and process until smooth. (If seeds bother you, this is the time to strain the puree through a fine mesh sieve or strainer.) Add the berry purée and buttermilk to sugar syrup; stir to combine.

    Pour the berry mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
    Transfer ice-cream to a separate, covered container. Place in freezer and continue to freeze for a couple hours longer before serving.

    *If you use just strawberries, this will amount to 4 pints or 2 (16 oz) containers
    NOTE: You may have to leave it out a few minutes (like 5-10 minutes depending on how cold your freezer is), because it doesn't harden in the freezer quite a bit.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Product Review: Collopsable Colanders. Where have you been all my life?

    I LOVE this collapsable colander by OXO Good Grips! I've had two of these types of colanders for a couple years. They were purchased for myself. By myself. For Christmas. Worth every bit of that $15 I paid ON CLEARANCE! I thought they were SO expensive at the time! But now, I haven't been able to find one under $19.99. They sell for $29.99 on Amazon. I loved it so much that I bought my mom one too. Keep in mind that you can always use your Bed, Bath, and Beyond 20% coupons that come in the mail for such purchases.
    There are a few different brands of collapsable colanders, but I picked OXO because they were a little slimmer shape. The products that I have that are OXO brand are good design and very helpful. I also like this smaller sized colander.

    Recently, I saw a 2-pack of colapsable colanders at Costco for $19.99 and thought they were a real steal (they were green and white). I'm all for items that take less storage space. Let me show you what I mean...below on the upper right are 'regular' colanders. Below on bottom left, is collapsable one. My smaller one is not pictured, but it fits right next to it. Makes a big difference. They are dishwasher safe or hand wash. These OXO colanders are heat resistant/safe, have great handles, wipe clean easily and stand up well in the sink. Also, food doesn't get stuck in the holes (hate that). Fantastic product.

    So if you're short on space and make pasta, wash produce, rinse beans, often, consider some collapsable colanders.

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Raspberry Gratin...Another reason worth turning on the oven...

    This dessert is so heavenly--one that I miss during the cold winter. Not unlike like ice-cream, it's not exactly healthy, but it's SO worth the splurge! And I know, I'm all talk about not turning on your oven & then I give you two recipes in a week that require none other than: YOUR OVEN! Forgive me. It's just that it's summer. When else do we get such amazing produce with which to experiment! After this....well, I'll try to stop using the oven. Now, let's turn to the magic that is the raspberry adult pudding--decadent, creamy, yet fresh.

    The recipe below is Bittman at his finest--simple, elegant, delicious. It's fruit 'robed in creamy custard'. And a LOT lighter than some gratin recipes out there with many, many eggs! It's been at least 6 years since I first made this, but I think of this recipe more often than I ever imagined. 

    How can you resist not eating these raspberries?! If you can, this dessert will be worth it. Here are some fun facts on raspberries.

    I have loved these fruits from a young age when my grandparents would take us kids up to the mountains.

    We used to pick white raspberries and my grandparents would teach my brother and I about bear this day, I have a vivid image of my grandmother carrying a heavy load of raspberries in her apron over her skirt and laughing. Here is a picture of my mom with my grandparents in Romania a few years ago.

     The only thing that might make this dessert more decadent is a scraped out vanilla bean. Let me know if you try it that way. One bonus feature of this recipe is that you can prepare most of it in advance the night before or morning before entertaining. Once you fold in the cream, the next day, it only takes 10 or less minutes in the oven!!!

    Best part? You can make this with ANY fruit.

    Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
    • 1 cup milk (I used skim)
    • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
    • 1 egg, PLUS 1 egg yolk
    • Pinch of salt
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup heavy cream
    • 3 cups fresh raspberries, rinsed and patted dry (this is about a 12 ounce container)
    Place the milk and cinamon in a small saucepan and turn the heat to medium. When steam rises from the milk, remove it from the heat.

    Meanwhile, beat the egg and yolk with the salt until light and foamy. Combine the sugar and flour and beat about half of the mixture into the eggs; add about half the milk and beat again. Add the remaining sugar-flour mixture, beat, then the remaining egg.

    Place the mixture in small saucepan and turn to the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring almonst constantly, until the mixture begins to boil; it will thicken almost immediately. Remove the custard from the heat and continue to stir for about a minute or so longer. Cover well and chill thoroughly, at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours.

    About 20 minutes before you want to eat the dessert, preheat the broiler. Stir about 1/4 cup of the cream into the custard to lighten it. Whip the remaining cream until it holds soft peaks. Fold the cream gently into the custard.

    Place the fruit on the bottom of an 8- to 10- inch long gratin dish or an attractive 8-inch square baking dish. Pour the cream mixture over the top and shake the pan a little to distribute it among the berries or fruit. Broil about 4 to 6 inches from the heat until lightly browned on top, about 10 minutes.

    Truly, raspberries bathed in creamy, cinnamon custard.

    Dole the custard out in pretty cups before serving. Serve immediately. But, we have eaten this dessert cold and it's just as good as when it's pulled straight out of the oven. Enjoy!

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    Summer Staple: Black Bean & Corn Salad (or Salsa)

    One of my greatest buddies, Lila, posted this recipe on FB recently. She's an amazing cook. She was my college suite-mate and we used to have 'fancy dinner nights'. I miss her cooking. She recommended it from and here is the original recipe. But, in the interest of time and availability, I had to make do today and the result was still very delicious. Thank you Lila for the recipe and I will make the original sometime soon with peppers and avocado (but with a little less oil). Below is my abbreviated, in-a-bind, version. We couldn't stop eating it--hope you all make Lila's version first!

    This is the PERFECT picnic food. Also, a salad you can make a day or so ahead of time before serving. When my friend Kelly and I used to travel for business outside of Charleston (Mount Pleasant, SC), we would always have lunch at this cute place called Square Onion at I'On--a lovely little casual lunch bistro in an idealistic community where you could eat on the sidewalk and see how the other side lived. In our case, the 'other side' were the posh stay at home moms that seemed to have nannies, perfect hair in sweltering 95 degrees, and shopped as a sport. Kelly and I would arrive, hurried, sweaty in our business attire, carrying some file folder that we'd try to sort out over caprese sandwiches and this delightful black bean and corn side salad and figure out who would get the coordinator to write up the adverse events and who would bribe the medical records lady with food for extra files that we realized we needed. Makes me miss you Kelly! Can't eat this salad without thinking of those times....

    Hope you all will enjoy this summer staple--salty, tart, spicy, and full of flavor. A great side to sandwiches or quiche or a delicious dip with crispy tortilla chips.


    Serves 4

    • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1 can corn, drained
    • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
    • 2-3 green onions, chopped (use both white and green parts)
    • 1 handful of fresh cilantro, chopped (I used a cilantro 'cube' from Trader Joe's)
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 lime, juiced
    • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
    • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
    • 1/8 tsp. chili powder
    • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
    • Salt & pepper, to taste
    Toss all ingredients together and serve as a side dish or with chips as a salsa. Taste for seasonings. You can serve the salad either cold or at room temperature.

    Store leftovers, covered, in the refrigerator.

    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    Blackberry Basil Yogurt Popsicles

    We had a wonderful beach vacation last week. Thanks to my in-laws for our annual trip to Kiawah Island. While there, my mother in law had the cool idea to freeze lemonade in popsicle molds for the kids to take down to the beach. Absolutely, positively BRILLIANT idea for these hot days. The kids were in heaven...and I have to say, I was a bit jealous the adults didn't get any. But then I saw their joy, and it was ok. Just look at how cute they seem from our beach chairs....

    So fast forward to the present: we're back and I got my hiney on Amazon faster than Wienergate made the news...Ok, so that may be stretching it; however, I received my popsicle molds in 2 days (this does bring me to the point of 'Amazon Mom'--if there are any newish moms out there, check it out--wish I'd heard about it sooner. Here's a link.)

    My daughter was ecstatic to open and play with these cute molds--they are made by Orka. After reading a lot of popsicle reviews, I decided to go with a quality brand in a smaller size (2 oz) so they can be easily eaten by a 2 year old (and portion control for the mom). Hey, it's summer here from May to October....anything keeping a person cool should be justified.

    So while staring inside the fridge (for the tenth time today) and looking out at the basil growing on the porch, I remembered this amazing blackberry-basil flavor combination crisp I made from Barbara Kingsolver's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

    My child is not as big of a yogurt fan as I'd like her to be, so sneaking Greek yogurt into a 'treat' was starting to sound better and better. And local honey got used as a natural sweetener...

    And thus, the healthy blackberry basil yogurt popsicles were born. Can't wait to try this recipe with strawberries or raspberries and mint or basil.


    Makes 5-6 (2 oz) popsicles
    • 1 (12 oz) container blackberries, rinsed and patted dry (OR 1 pint strawberries, cored and quartered)
    • 1/4 cup honey (agave nectar or raw sugar would work well too)-I used 1/3 cup & it was quite sweet
    • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
    • small handful of basil leaves (amounts to a 1-2. Tbsp chopped basil)
    • 1 tsp. freshly squeezed orange or lemon juice
    • *7-8 ounces (~1 cup) Greek-style yogurt (I used fat-free, but any kind is fine) 

    Bring the blackberries, honey, basil, vanilla extract, and orange or lemon juice to a simmer in a medium sauce pan. Simmer for approximately 5-8 minutes, or until blackberries are very soft or bubbly. Place fruit mixture into a food processor and pulse a few times, until the fruit mixture is almost pureed, but not completely liquified.

    If desired (sort of recommend this actually if you hate berry seeds), push the puree pieces through a fine mesh sieve and discard seeds. Chill the berry puree in the refrigerator until cooled.

    Stir the yogurt into the blackberry mixture until combined. Pour the puree into molds and freeze for at least 8 hours, or overnight. To remove the popsicles from the molds, run some warm water over the outside of the mold until you can gently pull/wriggle the popsicle out.

    *You can also use regular vanilla yogurt and omit the vanilla extract.

    And after an unfortunate spillage incident after the third serving, we learned that even the dog loved these popsicles.

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Tomato, Squash & Feta Gratin

    Hello folks! Let me introduce you to my new favorite vegetable side dish....courtesy of the Costco Connection. I have SO many summer vegetable gratin recipes. And for some reason, I never made a one. Not today. Today was not the day that I would shirk away from a dreamy vegetarian, eye-popping recipe. This took about 15 minutes to assemble. The dish requires few ingredients and yes, it's worth turning on your oven for this one once the sun goes down.  This side dish is truly wonderful--a little cheese goes a long way and I'm mighty disappointed I didn't make two pans of this gratin. Serve it with a rice pilaf and grilled meat. I was thinking it would also go well with some roast chicken (or Worthington multigrain cutlets) and mashed potatoes.

    The recipe below is the one featured in Connie Guttersen's book, The New Sonoma Cookbook. Dr. Guttersen is the creator of "The Sonoma Diet". Another cookbook that I own, that has yet to be dusted off. But now that I've tried this recipe, I can't wait to see what else she's got for me :))

    And speaking of Sonoma...did I mention how in love with it I am? Below is a (tiny) picture my husband took from a trip back a few years ago while we were at the wonderful Chateau St. Jean winery--an exquistely beautiful and peaceful place (just couldn't get the picture to stretch with my blog format).

    So, while we can't exactly go back to Sonoma for a while....I will enjoy its food. Hope you will too!


    Serves 4 as a side dish

    • 6 oz zucchini sliced 1/4" on long bias
    • 6 oz yellow squash sliced 1/'8' on long bias
    • 2 scallions chopped
    • 1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
    • 1 1/2 tsp. oregano
    • 2 oz feta cheese, crumbled (I used reduced fat feta cheese)
    • 12 oz tomatoes cut in half then sliced 1/4"thick crosswise (If you use Roma tomatoes, you don't need to cut again)
    • 2 tsp. olive oil
    • salt & pepper to taste

    Lightly oil 6" diameter corning ware or pyrex dish (Dr. Guttersen says saute pan works fine too).

    Toss zucchini with salt & pepper. Toss yellow squash with salt & pepper. In a bowl mix scallions, garlic, oregano, & feta.
    Lay zucchini slices in pan slightly overlapping like shingles. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Top with a layer of tomatoes slightly overlapping. Sprinkle on half of the scallion mix. Top with a layer of yellow squash & another of tomatoes sprinkling each with salt & pepper. Top with remaining scallion mix then drizzle with olive oil.

    Bake for 30 min at 400 degrees or until top is slightly browned. Allow to sit for 10 min then cut into wedges & serve. 4 servings.
    Here's the part where I come clean: I didn't follow the recipe exactly because I was lazy. I didn't weigh the squash, tomatoes, etc....I can tell you that I used approximately 1.5 zucchinis, 2 yellow squash zucchinis, about 3 Roma tomatoes, 1 big clove of garlic, and 1 1/2 green onions. Then I mixed the olive oil with the garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. I alternated the vegetables in the pan, drizzled the oil-garlic-oregano on top and sprinkled it all with the green onions and feta. My way seemed much easier (maybe it's not). And it was simply amazing. I'm going to continue to eat my vegetables this way....

    Thursday, June 9, 2011

    Tropical Meringues (Easy Overnighters or Afternoon Delights)

    Light, airy, sweet...and in bakeries all over Paris. A city I have yet to see. I know, can you believe it?! Me, not see gay PAREE?! I've seen the south of France, parts of Spain, Italy, Greece and even TURKEY (?!), but not Paris....So much of this culinary world yet to be seen. So many more shifts my husband will be working....(haha). Here is a great post with pictures of meringues in bakery windows. I was left drooling...

    Meringues, the rumor is, are of Swiss descent. For me, they have always been associated with  'floating island'--the dessert my mother would make when I was a kid. Yes, the women in my family were INCREDIBLY talented pastry makers, but then again so were all the Romanian moms I knew....Nobody makes those kinds of dessert anymore...not that there's anything wrong with American pies and cookies (as you can see, I enjoy those too), but I just LOVE LOVE LOVE European desserts.'s a sentimental week for me.

    Below, you will see a slower and faster method to make these cookies--which by the way, are wonderful with a cup of dark, hot coffee. Keep in mind, this is a very, very easy cookie recipe! These cookies are crispy, sweet, and have a chewy center. Here's what the middle of my tropical ones looked like:

    A few tips about having meringue success:

    1. Chill your mixing bowl and beaters (at least 15 minutes to several hours)
    2. Use eggs that are at room temperature
    3. Add a little salt to ensure a more 'rounded' flavor
    4. Use powdered sugar--it helps incorporate faster into the egg whites.
    5. Cutting back on a bit of sugar will ensure a softer, chewier meringue. But traditional meringues have a good amount of sugar to ensure they are stiff, crispy, and airy.
    These cookies can be flavored with anything--almond extract and ground almonds, a little bit of raspberry puree (would look super cute for Valentine's day piped as hearts), mini chocolate chips, etc., etc., etc.....


    Makes ~50 (but they go pretty fast and you can always share with your friends & neighbors)
    • 6 egg whites, at room temperature
    • 1/2 tsp. rum extract OR coconut extract
    • 1-2 small pinches of salt
    • ~3 cups powdered sugar
    • 1 cup lightly toasted sweetened flaked coconut
    • 1/2 cup macadamia nuts, chopped 

    If you don't have toasted coconut, here's a great link on how to make it.

    Preheat the oven to 185 degrees. Cover 2-3 sheet pans in parchment paper or use silpats.

    Using an upright electric mixer, or a handheld mixer--and in either a glass or stainless steel bowl--beat the egg whites and rum or coconut extract on high speed until they are foamy. Then, begin to sprinkle the sugar and salt in, and continue to beat on high speed.

    Beat the egg whites, sugar, salt, and extract until the mixture becomes stiff, white, and very shiny. This can take anywhere from 15-20 minutes (safe to walk away). When the glossy mixture is finished, gently fold in the lightly toasted coconut and chopped macadamia nuts.

    Spoon heaps of the meringue mixture onto the parchment paper (don’t worry about how they look, you can make them little or drop them in big, sloppy mounds. OR, you can make them look sophisticated by filling a pastry bag with the meringue mixture and piping them into fancy shapes onto the silpats or parchment paper).

    Cook them for about 2 hours or until they are dry and crispy, but not browned. Let them cool completely before storing them in an airtight container.


    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Follow directions as above, but after the meringues have been heaped or shaped onto the pans, turn off the oven. Place your pans into the oven (that has been turned off) and close the door. Don't open it again until the morning. (About 8-10 hours--but who gets that much sleep anyway? You'll just have to resist eating them when you put them away in the morning. I, no doubt, failed.)

    Even though the point is not to have them turn brown, this particular recipe may give the appearance of a bit more golden meringues because the composition contains toasted coconut (that's ok!). Either way, these little cloud cookies were good!

    Meringue cookies keep at room temperature for a week if they are stored, covered, in a DRY area.

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    Amaretto Espresso Ice Cream with Almonds & Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans

    When life gives you heavy cream and LOTS of chocolate covered espresso beans (thanks to one of my 'besties', Erinn!), you make special occasion ice-cream!

    I get sentimental about coffee ice-cream because it reminds me of the ice-cream that my aunt made for us when we spent the summer in Bran, Romania when I was 9 years old. I had never had homemade ice-cream up until then... and to this day, I have tried to replicate Cami's ice-cream. My last experiment resulted in scrambled eggs....happy to say this time was not the same! One taste, and the memories come flooding--I remember holding my new baby cousin (Alex), the fragrant fruit trees in the front yard, the animals my grandparents let me help feed (they had chickens & lambs), the smell of the cheese my grandmother was smoking in the back yard (yes, she smoked her own cheese!), and the wildflowers I picked along the river bank that crossed their property. Hope that you guys have happy memories that flood you when you eat ice-cream too!

    I came up with this recipe because the heat is in the triple digits, I didn't want to go to the store for ice cream, and my husband deserved a treat after working to clean out our office. This was SO. GOOD. If you are a coffee and nut lover, I think you will enjoy this! IF you want a milder, regular coffee flavor--omit the espresso/coffee powder (but leave the strong brewed coffee in).

    • 2 cups heavy cream
    • 1 cup skim milk
    • 1 cup super strongly brewed coffee or espresso
    • 2 Tbsp. coffee or espresso powder
    • 1 1/8 cup sugar
    • 1/4-1/2 tsp. pure almond extract (depending on how strong you like your almond flavor)
    • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
    • 1 or 2 small pinches salt
    • 6 large egg yolks (reserve whites for another use)
    • 1 cup (8 oz) chocolate covered espresso beans, roughly chopped (I ran mine through the coffee grinder until they were chopped into smallish chunks--but you don't have to)
    • ~1/3 cup sliced almonds

    In a saucepan, combine the cream, milk, coffee, sugar, extracts and salt until the mixture is steaming hot and the sugar has melted into the cream mixture. You will notice tiny bubbles around the edge of the saucepan. Turn off the heat at this point.

    Meanwhile, in another bigger saucepan (about medium sized) whisk the egg yolks until their texture is sort of 'fluffy' in a large bowl. (I like to use a silicone coated whisk because a metal one scratches the bottom of my enamel coated pots. I don't mind using a metal whisk on metal pot....maybe I should?)

    Begin pouring a little bit of the hot cream into the whisked eggs---slowly, a tiny bit at a time (WHILE CONTINUALLY WHISKING), so as to 'temper' the eggs. When the mixture is well combined, place the pan over medium-low heat and continue to heat the custard-like mixutre while stirring. (Yes, you can step away just a little bit to get the mail or whatever else you have to do, but hurry back). When the custard coats the back of a spoon, it is to be removed from the heat. This is what I mean:

    Trust me on this one: Pour the hot custard through a fine sieve and into a bowl. See what I have below? Little remnants that did not make the cut. (Continually whisking helps eliminate 'curds')

    Refrigerate the cream mixture at least two hours, and even overnight. After chilling, pour the custard mixture into the ice-cream maker (with a FROZEN BOWL). When the ice cream is about half-way through the churning process, add the chopped espresso beans and almonds.

    Scoop the ice cream into a container--it will be soft. You can either enjoy it now in a softer texture, or freeze for at least 4 hours. I like it to freeze a bit longer before I eat it--but it's all about preference.

    Scoop it out and enjoy the creamy, very crunchy, adult-like treat!

    If you like 'mudpie' flavor, you absolutely have to try this!

    My husband said it tasted like Haagen Dazs.